Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff

by Jamilah Lemieux

While the debates over Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s iconic choreopoem will continue long after the film’s theatrical run (and for the record: I have seen it and prefer not to comment about it), one thing most fans and critics of the film can agree with is the power of the original playwright’s pen and the timelessness of the themes she touched.

One of the For Colored Girls monologues that has stuck with me even some fifteen years after reading the play for the first time is, “somebody almost walked out wid alla my stuff,” in which the poet laments how much of herself she gave to a man who was not worthy of such a gift. In fact, he seemed content receiving all she had to offer until he didn’t want it anymore and had no qualms walking away from her, now broken and empty.

A lot of us have been there, I’m sure.

It’s important to know that when we share with a lover, it is a managed transference of energy, love, time, space, etc. Reckless abandon and unbridled passion sound great in theory, but you can’t jump off the emotional deep end for someone who hasn’t so much as shown a willingness to slide into the shallow end of the caring pool for you. You can give and give . . . but you cannot give up all of your stuff. If you give until you are empty or drained, you may find yourself with nothing left and nothing to show for it but tears.

Personally, I am happy to cook, clean, pamper, spoil, nurture, adore and protect when there is someone worthy of receiving that. But I won’t give until it hurts in a relationship—because it’s not supposed to hurt. And when it starts to, that is your cue that the person you are sharing your all with probably isn’t holding up his or her end of the bargain. They are just taking your stuff and not even pretending like you are getting something in return. When you see something like that, you run, girl. You run.

If I ever become one of those sad women who can’t bear the demise of a relationship and finds herself blowing up some man’s phone or showing up at his job because I have literally given him all of myself and no longer know how to function . . . my friends know to call my family to come collect me from wherever I may be—and take me home. Like, home home. My mom’s crib, some 1,000 miles away. Just don’t let me be out here empty-handed and confused.

You can’t share yourself with someone to the point where, if faced with them leaving, you’d find yourself with a lot less than you started the relationship. You can’t let nobody walk out with your stuff, and the best way to avoid that is by first being wise about who you give it to and how/when you distribute what you share. As the piece says, you “needs” your things. You need your heart to love again, your mind to understand it was wrong—and you need your entire self to be strong enough to walk away with grace. Don’t you ever let anyone walk off with your stuff.

  • Alexandra

    “You can give and give…but you cannot give up all of your stuff. If you give until you are empty or drained, you may find yourself with nothing left and nothing to show for it but tears.”

    Love it! That’s all I can say.

    Thanks for posting the vid along with the article.
    I liked the way Loretta delivered the poem in the film, but I love Alfres even more.

  • MoZaic

    I loved this poem because I can relate to it so much, but never again will I give away all of my stuff. This was such a powerful movie and I’m glad Tyler Perry was able to make this movie and keep it true to the original as possible.

  • EmpressDivine

    This was one of my favorite scenes as well.

    One of my biggest fears is becoming that woman while in love.

  • Elley

    That was my favorite poem/scene also. I was that woman who gave away all of my stuff, but like you, I have learned from my mistakes. The poem was so powerful!

  • ReBecca Theodore-Vachon

    great points…I think one of the things that’s been overlooked in this whole black women vs. black men debate is accountability. Some people are quick to pass the buck and play the victim. For instance I know of a young woman who isn’t even 25 yet, with a 3 year old and a 2nd on the way. First father is non-existent and daddy #2 is already playing hot and cold. Would it be fair to say that she’s an innocent victim and play the tired ‘black men ain’t sh*t!’ song… or that she should have exercised some plain old common sense and kept her ‘stuff’ to herself?

  • Megan Walter

    It’s hard to be held accountable for things we were never aware of. I know I never knew not to give all of myself away, my mother didn’t have the language to tell me that when she herself didn’t know it. That’s why this movie, and the original work is so important, and why all women, and men, should be familiar with it. We can learn a lot from it, but these stories have to be told.

  • Joanna_iVee

    Amazing scene. The movie did nothing if it didnt motivate you to read the original work. Regardless of the screen adaptation you cannot deny the power in the poetry. Loretta Devine and Alfre Woodard – great performances respectively – both amazing to watch as always.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Tami

    Sadly, I recognized myself in that movie as the woman who gave away all of her stuff & got nothing in return….I woke up, though…I thought the movie was wonderful.

  • MW

    A few years ago, one of my grandfathers and I sat hunched over some leather-work and he told me (for what was at least the zillionth time) the story of his and my grandmother’s love. Every time he tells the story (appropriate for my age) he tells me a bit more.

    This time, he told me something that really struck chords with me: “Love is never equal. There is always someone chasing and someone being chased. There will never be a point where you both love one another just the same. The key to a lasting love is that the inequality is always shifting. You may love him more in the morning and he loves you more at night”.

    More than anger and frustration with one another, I think we would all do well to recognize such a point. Black women especially, give and give: it almost seems it is our portion to spoil the men we love and be, albeit at times unconsciously, taken advantage. If we know our own worth, and know to always love for the love where we are chasing AND being chased, we can do better. For ourselves, for our future generations.

  • Drew-Shane

    This is why I love you so! This was one of my favorite ones too. I actually liked the poems Loretta Devine did in the movie, don’t shoot me. Yes, I referred to the movie. I think it’s very important tale to Black women and how they feel afterwards. I’m so glad women like you don’t have a problem with keeping and claiming your “stuff.”

    Good advice for the peoples!

  • Terri

    They killed it!!!! i loved this part too. It reflected me so well.

  • julienne

    good one, Ms. Jamilah!! really powerful scene for me in FCG

  • Gorgeous Spice

    Love this article. Its well written and I agree with everything said. its only with age that you learn from your mistakes

  • Canden Webb

    YES! This article right here is scripture.

  • Kia Muze

    That was powerful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kia Muze

    I want Loretta Devine to adopt me. She was such a revelation when she delivered this poem. I didn’t even know I had LET someone walk off with alla my stuff…been sittin here mourning a dead thing for a year. That was such a wake up call.

  • BFS

    It is real strange to talk about who needs to be held “Accountable” for what they to a group of women who are taught directly and indirectly from girlhood that there only role in life is to give, give, give, and give some more to her man.

    Anyway, a very powerful piece for sure. Hopefully more Black women and girls will heed it thanks to the movie bringing it back to light, and keep stuff for THEMSELVES first and ONLY share it with those who DESERVE it.

  • Alisha

    Great article! I just posted the full poem on my blog because it resonated with me so well.

  • Camille

    Where can i find this video i wanna order it and watch it. I wuv Alfre Woodard she is the best and I wuv Loretta Devine too.

  • Isis

    Alfre is beautiful!! I love this poem

  • Amanda

    While I do agree with you, it’s important that as we judge other young women, we offer them guidance and support. Don’t just give her a disapproving stare without providing her with the tools to do better.

  • zy

    This poem was the best… it strikes a chord in just about every woman because i’m sure we’ve all done this at one time or other. we’re definitely taught that we have to give and give and give of ourselves and quite frankly… very few of us are taught not to give all… watching this was amazing for me…

  • Christina White

    This is so right on point. I enjoyed the TP film, but more so because of the stanza-triggered stretching of heartstrings due to my own experience than anything on screen. Oh, how I treasure my stuff nowadays. That hollowness of having no stuff is a sensation, a pain, a vulnerability I never want to experience again. Beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing. Ms. Woodard is amazing.

  • binks

    well damn this is why I come to clutch, great article and very powerful. I think most people have been there where we think if we keep giving and giving then that will keep so and so around and keep the relationship strong despite whether or not it is hurting you to give then one day you look up and you gave so much and gotten so little you don’t have a leg to stand on. Don’t get me wrong it is good to give just as much as you get but you should keep a part of yourself that you can stand and count on regardless if you are with someone or not

  • serenissima

    this just moved me to tears

  • Blaquestarr

    The most inspirational story I’ve heard all week was from a friend of mine from work. She broke off her engagement 3 weeks before her destination wedding with a man she had been with for 14 years.
    A year later, it still hurts her to think about it, but she’s happy she pulled the plug.
    I agree. You love. You love HARD until it hurts – then you get the hell out of there.
    I always knew that when I decided to love, when i fell so from atop the skyscraper of “above it all”, i would give it my all. Consequences be damned. I’d go hard or go home. And if it didn’t end well, well then I have to trust that I’m a strong enough person to pick-up my pieces and rebuild, without regret.
    My friend’s story reminded me that in the end, you make the selfish choice for you. And despite the bad times that come from such a decision, you’ll never regret what you decided.

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  • Miam

    Excellent piece. Unfortunately, I’ve been there. And thankfully, my friends DID call my family and yes—(as you mentioned)—they took me HOME. Actually, they flew here to smack some sense back into me. And threatened to take me “home”–to their house (1000s of miles away)–if I didn’t get it together. :( In hindsight, I’m thankful that my friends intervened and for my family. Never again…

  • Miam

    Excellent piece. Unfortunately, I’ve been there. And thankfully, my friends DID call my family and yes—(as you mentioned)—they took me HOME. Actually, they flew here to smack some sense back into me. And threatened to take me “home”–to their house (1000s of miles away)–if I didn’t get it together. :( In hindsight, I’m thankful that my friends intervened and for my family. Never again…

  • Amma Kyeiwaa

    POWERFUL!!! This was my favorite piece in the entire film. I’m sure she spoke to EVERY woman’s spirit. I’m thankful I learned this lesson at an early age.

  • gOldiLox

    Unfortunately I’ve been there before and i am glad that i left it. I remember crying all day because i was unhappy about everything, tears streamed and all i could do was wipe them away. I promised myself that no human being will ever have that amount of power over me again. I am single and i am happy, i am focusing on me right now.

  • Jessica McJunkins

    Brilliant! Truer words were never spoken.

  • Zion

    wow! nice article.. lynn whitfield and alfre woolard are amazing!

  • Hurting

    WOW! I am there now! He married me, procreated with me and then walked out on me while I was pregnant with our second child. I am still picking up the pieces, but so wish I had learned this lesson in college and not from my husband. Your husband is not supposed to make you hurt like this. Am hoping to one day love again.

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